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Q.I am a middle-aged woman. A couple of years ago, my husband died suddenly. He was it. We spent the better part of a decade traveling, enjoying life, and loving each other. The loss left me dark, broken, and lonely. I was convinced I would never recover. I still feel dark inside and I don’t think I will ever be fully happy.
Last summer, I met a woman and we clicked immediately. We had wonderful conversations, and I found in her a great listener and friend. We ended up hooking up one night; I’d never been with a woman before. I told her I wasn’t ready to date anyone – I was too sad, the grief too present. I agonized between what my body and heart were telling me vs. the feelings of guilt, sadness, loneliness. Needless to say, we started dating. Dating, going on vacations, meeting each other’s family and friends. It was awesome, and I couldn’t believe I’d found love again. This woman is beautiful, kind, brilliant, funny, sexy, generous, and she loves me wholly. I am proud of her and everything she is/what she stands for. We enjoy each other immensely and have talked about a future together. We’ve been functioning as a partnership.
One day we looked around and realized she was living at my place, even though she still had her condo. It had just happened. And I freaked. I unceremoniously told her I needed space, no contact. No seeing each other, no calls, no texts. There was not a specific event that precipitated this, just my issues. I am not sure I can even define it, other than that my grief and sadness overwhelm me. It was hard. It is hard. She is an emotional wreck. She is asking for clarity, of course, but I can’t face her or this situation. I miss her and I am in love with her but ... my walls are up and I can’t understand why. I cannot pinpoint the trigger.
We have seen each other a few times during this period, and I love seeing her. I have sent her messages apologizing for my bad behavior, and she replies with, “you have my love and compassion; I am here for you.” She is truly wonderful. I know that my sadness and hurt affects her, and I am sure it’s not easy being partnered with me.
I want to be clear: this is not a case of “I am not feeling it” — quite the opposite. There’s no one I’d rather spend time with than her. In some crazy way, it seems easier to cut off all contact than to feel the fear of loss again (although I don’t think she’d ever walk away from me). Neither of us want to date others, that’s not what this time apart is about.
How do I make sense of this in my own head and for her? I’m bad at communicating. In my heart, I feel she knows this is not about her but I know it is still hurting her. I don’t know if it’s all too good to be true and I am creating the static or what. Yes, I do want to be with her.
A.You say you don’t know what caused this shift in your brain, but you did a great job listing the triggers. You were already grieving and afraid of loss. Then, out of nowhere, you realized you had a roommate. Your need for space started the moment you realized you were accidentally living together. Basically, you weren’t ready.
My advice is to make sure you’re getting help as you continue to grieve. This will be the second time this week that I recommend bereavement groups, but it helps to get context from other people coping with loss.
It also seems like a good idea to drop the no-contact rule – because you want to see this woman. You can tell her (because she’s caring, patient, etc.) that you want to spend time with her without talking about major plans and future partnership. Those conversations can’t be banned forever, but for now, as you reset — and get help — you should be able to enjoy each other’s company without thinking about next steps. See how it feels to be with her without the pressure. Know that you can both go to separate homes at the end of the night without answering any questions.
Remember that you’ve only been together for a year. At this point, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
You realize you behaved really cruelly to this woman, right? You’d better figure out what you want, because she shouldn’t put up with this kind of behavior.
It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the new girlfriend is actually the one “behaving cruelly.” The letter writer has obviously not dealt with the sudden loss of her husband, and the quickness of the progression of the relationship with the new partner ... and the subsequent inner turmoil might suggest deep misgivings about the rebound relationship.
You have been fortunate to love deeply with two people. But you may have promised yourself that you would never feel this way again in deference to your husband. If his love and respect for you is as strong as you say, he would want you to be happy and in love again.
I love seeing everyone’s soft side coming out on this letter. What a nice comment!
I think you’re a better communicator than you think: I can feel your grief, your confusion, your passion for your new partner. But I can’t help but wonder if you’re consciously avoiding a major issue here, the fact that you’re facing the rest of your life with a female partner and this is a shock to your psyche. I agree that counseling is needed for sorting out the issues and for support. Good luck.
I’m really sorry about the loss of your husband and the grief you’ve been dealing with. Somehow the universe allowed another wonderful person to come into your life. I wish the best for both of you.